Jiggers are to cocktails what measuring spoons are to baking: a basic necessity.
By definition, a jigger is a measuring device used in the making of alcoholic drinks. While a relatively simple device, the variety of jiggers made within the last century is truly astounding. Some jiggers are quite simple, with increment marks on the inside or outside of the cup giving the ounce measurements. Others, called double jiggers, have two cups attached to each other at their bottoms. One cup measures one amount (typically an ounce) while the other side measures a different amount (typically one and one half or two ounces).
Following the carefree spirit of Prohibition, the 1920s and 1930s produced a wide variety of whimsical jiggers. Some jiggers had bars attached at each end that would rest on top of the glass. The ingredients were poured into the jigger and the jigger was rolled over to dispense the ingredients into the glass. Others had bar tools attached to the end of the jigger (such as a bar spoon, can opener or corkscrew) to aid the bartender in making a drink more quickly.
By mid-century, jiggers fell out of grace as dedicated and skilled bartenders were fewer to be found following Prohibition. Both within the bar and at home, bartenders began to “free” pour their spirits and mixers into a mixing glass (in lieu of using a jigger). The results were varied and often quite unpalatable. As the century progressed and cocktails became “super-sized,” jiggers were seldom used. With the turn of the 21st Century, jiggers have regained their importance. Bartenders have rediscovered that, just like baking, all cocktails require precision (as you cannot remove an ingredient once it is added). Since jiggers allow for that precision, properly made cocktails have returned, resulting in more well balanced and delicious drinks.